The goal of "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" was "to defy this rule and prompt the IRS to take action against a church that could become the basis for a court case to test whether the amendment infringes on constitutional rights to free religious and political speech," reported Jennifer Hawes of The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C. The event was first organized four years ago by the Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom. All participants pledged to film their sermons and send them to the IRS.
Rev. Steven Baines, religious outreach director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told Hawes the political action "opens the door to politicizing our pulpits." The risk is that churches and pastors could become political fronts, he said. "They have freedom of speech. They can preach about their values, and we encourage pastors to preach about their values. But they cannot relate those to a particular candidate or party."
Participating pastors said they were taking part because their messages shouldn't be filtered through the IRS. But the average voter doesn't want pastors politicizing their sermons, according to a decade's worth of Pew Research Center polls, Hawes reported. In a July survey, 66 percent of people polled said churches and other places of worship should not endorse candidates. Even 90 percent of Protestant pastors polled in a May LifeWay survey said they shouldn't endorse from the pulpit. (Read more)